“The ground beneath my feet trembled!”

by Linda Holzhausen/LKO,  2015/05/21

Help around the clock

“I had hardly fallen asleep in my tent after an exhausting first week in Nepal, when I was startled out of my sleep by a loud noise of an engine and bright headlights. Excited voices were calling for a doctor. In the tent next to me a zip opened, I startled and saw that my team colleague, general practitioner Michael Brinkmann was already crawling outside.

The situation seemed to be under control and, completely exhausted, I fell into a deep sleep. The next morning I found out that Michael and our surgeon, Hansi Sobez had done a night shift, to care for a man with a badly injured hand. The previous afternoon he had been working at its house destroyed by the earthquake, when a stone plate had slipped from the roof. One of his fingers had been cut off nearly completely and my colleagues have had no other choice than to make a small amputation.

The next day, the situation at our location, the little town Jalbire, was calm again and we supported the local team with the care for the injured persons. Since the earthquake two weeks have passed and, thus, the number of patients has normalized. As the local health center was in danger of imminent collapse because of the quake, we treated the people in a tent we had brought along.

Early in the afternoon the sky got darker and one hour later it was raining cats and dogs, accompanied by continuing thunderstorms for hours. Even if the monsoon season was still 2 or 3 months to come, this rain was not unusual in the region around Jalbire. However, for all those people whose houses had been destroyed, this change of weather is fatal. Moreover, there is the danger of landslides from the mountainsides, which had become instable by the quake.

Also during the following days, the rain continued and so, two days later, we decided to go back to Kathmandu, not to miss our flight back to Germany because of soaked, muddy streets. Moreover, our work in Jalbire seemed to be done, as we could leave back a well-staffed health station equipped with plenty of medical material.

The catastrophe in the catastrophe

After a bumpy ride of about an hour, we reached the main road to Kathmandu around noon and had a little break in a small restaurant. I had just finished eating when it started: Everything around me was rumbling and shaking. The people shouted and sprang up. Without thinking, I got up and automatically followed the others outside the restaurant. Someone grabbed my arm and I tore this person with me, what gave me a good feeling.

Outside, we ran on the street, but then everybody stood still, more or less: At the opposite side of the road small and big rocks were falling down from the face of the rock. The surest place seemed to be behind a vehicle, even if this one was too near to the next building. 30 impressing seconds later, everything was over. It was the second earthquake with a force of 7.4. Later we got to know that, at this moment, we had not been far from the epicenter.

During one hour after the quake we stayed on the street. There were repeated after-quakes, which made the ground under my feet tremble. The situation was extremely unpleasant. No place seemed to be safe, everywhere we could have been hit by rocks or walls of houses. The small village near the highway had already been nearly completely destroyed by the first quake and every building still standing was in danger of imminent collapse.

Together with the inhabitants, whose faces were full of fear, we stood in the middle of the street, very unsure. The sun was burning on the skin and the sweat was running down our backs. Policemen, who have been placed in the little village since the last earthquake, cared for order and evacuated people from endangered houses.

Two doctors of our team asked about helping and the police led them to injured persons. We were all very worried when the two disappeared between the narrow house walls. After endlessly long fifteen minutes, they finally came back. They had been able to stabilize the broken leg of a man and give him the necessary painkillers. As soon as the situation would have eased, he will have to be brought to the next hospital.

We didn’t know when we could dare continuing our trip to Kathmandu. It would have been unreasonable to go back to Jalbire. The danger of a landslide was too high and most probably the road would be blocked. But also the way to Kathmandu was now blocked by some big rocks just in front of us.

After having fearfully stared at the face of rocks opposite us – without knowing where to run, if anything started to move there – our driver asked us to come to the car. The road was free again and we could continue our trip. Relieved and, at the same time, worried about the dangerous continuation of the journey, we got in. For about half an hour we were zigzagging around the stones and rocks lying on the street, and then we could continue in normal speed.

Finally our mobiles had reception again and we could answer our families and friends, who apparently already had heard about the earthquake and had sent fearful messages, and tell them that we were ok.”

Nurse Linda Holzhausen’s review shows that a disaster operation in a catastrophe region always also bears risks, caused for example by after-quakes. That’s why we owe even more thankfulness and respect for the many voluntary humedica helpers, who take on them big efforts at every disaster operation in order to help people in need.

In Nepal the humedica field teams are continuing to help the victims of the earthquake and are at the same time planning sustainable help in the field of reconstruction. Please help us to help and support our commitment for the people in Nepal with a directed donation. Thank you very much!

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